Sunday, March 23, 2014

La Primavera

Spring- doesn't it sound nice?  With springtime comes time for a teacher to decide her future.  And this is a tough one.  Do I stay at my school where everything is hard and I am unhappy, but I'm making a huge difference?  Do I go through the devastation and effort of finding another job?  Do I compromise somehow?

I'm somewhere in the middle.  I've decided to make a few changes to make my life better in the immediate sense, and work towards some long-term goals that I have in the hope that looking toward the future will bring me closer to joy than wallowing in a less-than-ideal present.  And next year...come what may.'s the plan:

  • Ride my (new, awesome) bike most days to work.  Andy helped me rearrange my classroom to fit the bike and now that I've been riding again for about 4 weeks, I feel so much better about everything.  I didn't realize how much my foot/asthma/needing to dress nice was keeping me from riding and thus contributing to my misery.  My new bike (ok, our new bike) has addressed most of those concerns for the better, and I feel great about it.  
  • Take a class.  I've been wanting to take a watercolor class because I have few actual technical skills.  While I know that I'm no genius when it comes to visual art, I love painting in my journal and I get great pleasure out of using my awesome watercolor set.  So, I signed up for an on-line class.  Because, you know, I'm not busy enough yet.   I'm curious about an on-line class, but I like that I can work through it on my own schedule.  
  • Take a real vacation.  Not a vacation where I go in to school and work for three days and spend another day or two at home doing things on the computer.  Nope.  Unplug, leave the lesson plans and Ipad at home, and go to the beach.  Seriously.  Tickets to LA (not my ideal beach destination, but convenient for a variety of reasons) have been purchased, beach hotel secured, and cost be screwed.  I can't wait!  Spring break!
  • Register now for a Master Naturalist course.  Basically, spend a week learning about the natural history and biology/botany of a region (mountains, wetlands, desert) with passionate conservationists and educators, and get a certificate saying that I did.  That is a no-brainer for me.  I also applied for a scholarship, but haven't heard back yet.  
  • Plan a Big Ride.  I haven't been on a bike tour since my first foot surgery, and it is time.  My friend and I (and possibly another) will be riding south to north on the Colorado section of the Great Divide.  Because of work schedules, my dear husband won't be able to join us, but this is my big summer hurrah.  I should probably start planning it now...June 20 is shockingly soon when I think about planning things like food preparation and mail drops.  

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hell of a Year

What to even begin to say?  This is my third year as a "new" teacher.  There have been a lot of tears.  Many of these tears can be directly attributed to my new school situation and lack of guidance, support, curriculum, accurate calendar, administration, etc.

On the other hand, I was at a neighborhood party the other night with Andy (which is pretty cool to begin with) and he was chatting with some folks about us, what we did, and that sort of thing.  It came up that I was a teacher at my (probably should be un-named) school, and the woman's eyes got big and said "I've heard about her.  My friend posts on her facebook page about her son's amazing teacher.  Wow, it's so great to meet you."  And that was me!  I was pretty blown away.

These two weeks of break have been amazingly restorative, so much so that the idea of going back to the day-to-day is overwhelming and kind of awful.  But I will, and I will make a huge difference in the lives of the children (many of whom are at our school because they have been so unsuccessful at other schools) and then June will arrive.

There is a possibility that I tore my ACL (a super common ski injury to the knee) a couple of days ago, but we can't be sure until the swelling goes down in a couple of weeks.  Then, an exam, and if needed, an MRI.  Surgery would be the next step.  Oh please, let it just be something simple!  Every time I think  of the possibility of surgery and crutches I get a horrible sick feeling in my stomach and want to cry.

Last, but not at all least, I accomplished something that I really wanted to do over the break: I finished putting together a vanity book about my trip to Guatemala.

Click here to see it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bento Joy

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to life..back to reality, hot potable water, and America

OK, so I'm back and adjusting reasonably well...well, adjusting, at least.

I've spent the day diving into preparing for my new classroom, and in need of a break, I went back to read one of my favorite teaching blogs, only to discover an email that I had sent the author quoted!  It felt good.

Here is the link to the interesting blog post on the topic of cute.  My email is the first one quoted.

More later, when English is easier.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rural Life

The english boycott is somewhat over, simply because my life here just outside the miniscule communities of Nuevo San Jose and Fatima is utterly amazing and I hope that I can write about it before the insane rain starts.  

So...I currently live on a coffee finca, about an hour outside Xela/Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.  There is one internet cafe two communities down the road, about a 10 minute walk on treacherous wet cobblestones.  The coffee finca is now run by the Escuela de la Montaña, and the school itself provides a huge amount of work and services for the surrounding communities.  The communities of Fatima and Nuevo San José were formed by former coffee workers who were on strike due to non-payment of their wages.  With help from the catholic church (I know...right?  There is this ideology called Liberation Theology...I highly recommend reading it to regain some faith in humanity.) the people were able to buy their own land away from the finca.  However, there are virtually no opportunities to work.  We live at the school in relative luxury (usually there is electricity, hot water, a kitchen, super clean rooms, and goregeous living areas) and eat with the families of the community.  I eat in a box made out  of corrugated tin.  Vilma, the dueña, cooks off a wood burning stove with a metal cover.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I eat and she feeds me mountains of tortillas.  The meals vary between protein (rice and beans, beans and eggs) and vegetables (spagetti and carrots, fried potatoes with salsa).  So far, never the twain have met.  But who am I to complain?  This is the closest I will probably get to living in this kind of poverty.

I´ve been learning a great deal about the politics of revolution, repression, and change here in Guatamala.  I´ve been to a guerrilla encampment, heard testimony from a fighter, heard testimony from a repatriated exile who was kidnapped and tortured, and more.  I´ve seen the direct impact that our school has on the economy of this region, and I am grateful.  Tomorrow night, our little group of seven students and the school coordinator, a radical ex-student, are going to sit down and discuss our roles as gringos, as sources of economic change, as sources of social change.  We are...a nurse practitioner student from Yale interested in women´s issues, a bilingual teacher (me), a political organizer who has spent the last several years organizing in Burma and Thailand with indigenous folks, a  domestic rights worker, two students, and a woman who works for an NGO in Columbia.  We are having a blast.  (Yeah, it is a little like the Breakfast Club, or Spanish Camp, but more adult than I was expecting.)

Last night, we watched a movie in Spanish (pausing occasionally for comprehension breaks), drank hot toddies with caldo de fruitas, moonshine from a certain town outside Xela, and learned about the horrors the mines have brought to the people.  This weekend, we are going to drive to the mine to see the destruction for ourselves. Some kind of fun.

In fact, I like it so much that about 10 minutes after I arrived, I decided to scrap my plans to travel to the high altitude lake, and stay as long as possible.  I can´t stay a full week, but a few more days will be just fine.  And my teacher told me today that there is´t much more for me to learn, just practice to do.  Excellent. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Partial English Boycott- Photos Instead

Guatamala is a pretty neat place, relatively safe and mellow, and I´m enjoying myself immensly.  However, I have decided that I do not want to write too much in the English because, well, I am not here to practice the English.  Quite the opposite.

However, I am very pleased to have found a full page web based instagram feed, and will try to post pictures frequently.  This is my first trip abroad with my own camera (admittedly, a crappy iPod, but still) and I am enjoying the bits of life that I can capture.  I hope you do too.

Hint: go to the pictures from July as they are the most recent.

Also, if you are wondering, I am in Quetzaltenango, aka Xela, in the Western Highlands.  In a week, I will be traveling to a rural pueblo to study at the Mountain School, then traveling around for a week, then home.  Tomorrow, I am going to visit a former guerrila encampment-but don't worry, aside from the high probability of car sickness, I will be just fine.  Two days ago I rode for an hour in the back of a pick-up truck, and it was quite mellow.

Sunday, July 14, 2013